I bet every turtle lover has been fascinated by the characteristics of a snapping turtle at a point in their journey. I mean the species is affordable, can adapt to a hard life, and live longer than most other species.
Even with all these friendly qualities, a snapping is challenging to raise. However, the difficulty bar gets lower if you can figure out the ideal diet of a snapping turtle.
The diet chart of a snapping turtle includes:
- Animal protein (Small fishes, snail, worms, insects, etc)
- Plant matter (Waterweed, lettuce. etc)
- Commercial food (Pellets)
- Supplements (Calcium. Vitamin D3)
- Occasional Treats (Fruits, Live animals)
Do you need a foolproof diet chart for your snapping turtle? If yes, then give this article a read. You will find out the food list for a snapping turtle along with the feeding schedule.
What Foods Snapping Turtle Eat In The Wild?
Snapping turtles are omnivorous, and their diet includes mostly animal protein and about one-third of plant matter. But as you know, in the wild, snapping turtles are on their own. So, they do not have many options to select a meal, and the balance of a diet can vary.
Usually, the snapping turtles depend on waterborne plants and low vegetation for fulfilling their vitamin and mineral needs. Again, these turtles hunt down small fishes or frogs in order to fill out the protein requirements.
Take a quick look at the food list of a wild snapping turtle,
- Small fishes
- Bird eggs
- Small mammals
- Small turtles
- Water hyacinths
- Water Weeds
- Mermaid weed
- Yellow pond lily
- Low vegetation
- Water fern
- Common arrowhead
- Bog buttons
- Bog moss
- Java moss
There are many more food sources available for the snapping turtles in the wild. These turtles culture an opportunistic feeding behavior due to the insufficiency of food. They feast on any time they get, and most of the time, the creatures continue eating even after having a full belly.
Now, here is the thing. In the above list, I have enlisted small mammals, turtles, and even birds. How do you think snapping turtles can prey on such big animals?
There are two subspecies of snapping turtles, common snapping turtle and alligator snapping turtle. The alligator snapping turtles possess a bulky body and powerful jaw. The sharp beaks of these turtles are the reasons why they can hunt down mid-sized animals.
You will be surprised to know that these alligator snapping turtles can bite off human fingers. Now imagine their attacking capabilities. Hunting down small mammals or birds is a cup of tea of this subspecies.
On the other hand, common snapping turtles are not as bulky as their close relatives. These turtles are excellent at preying but can barely hunt down powerful opponents.
Now that you have learned about the feeding habit of wild snapping turtles. Let’s move on to the diet of the captive ones.
Snapping Turtle Diet In Captivity
The meal structure of captive snapping turtles is similar to the wild ones. But yes, pet turtles do not have to hunt down animals to satisfy hunger. Also, the captive snapping turtles have access to a balanced diet which aids in their healthy growth.
Take a quick look at the chart of captive snapping turtle food list,
|Plant Materials (25 to 30% or 4 to 5 leaves)||Animal Protein (70 to 75%)||Commercial Foods (Not more than 25%)||Fruits (Occasional treat)||Supplements|
Green leafy vegetables
Red leaf salads
Shredded turkey meat
You might find other food options for your pet snapping turtle. You can give the diet a try as long as the meal is safe for the pet.
While choosing any item for the snapping turtle’s diet, you must follow a few restrictions. I will talk about those rules in the upcoming sections.
Snapping Turtle Diet: Foods To Avoid
Snapping turtles are survivors and can lead harsh lives. But of course, no species can not handle food poisoning.
An upset stomach might get well soon. However, if you feed your snapping turtle anything toxic, the pet might choke to death. So, it is mandatory for every turtle owner to, at least, have the faintest idea about the foods to avoid.
Follow the given list to find out which food is not suitable for your pet snapping turtle,
- Iceberg salad
- Processed food
- Dog food
- High protein food, etc.
How Much Should You Feed A Snapping Turtle?
I have once mentioned that wild snapping turtles are opportunistic feeders. Even the captive ones also possess this wild instinct. So, if you offer these creatures food, they will start eating without thinking twice.
Keepers claim that snapping turtles feast on meals even after having a full belly. Scientists suggest that the pets get familiar with the sight of the owner within the first few months. These creatures are intelligent enough to recognize their feeders. So, whenever the owner approaches the habitat, the snapping turtle will come to the surface and beg for food.
If you take pity on the innocent action of the snapping turtles and keep feeding them, the risks are that you will end up overfeeding your pets. Therefore, you should first learn how much quantity is enough to satisfy the hunger of the snapping turtles. It will definitely help you avoid overfeeding the turtles.
Several rules and techniques are popular when it comes to determining the food quantity of a snapping turtle. I am adding the two most efficient methods I know,
Experts claim that if a snapping turtle eats at a normal pace, it will take the creature 15 minutes to have a full belly. Based on this theory, the 15-minute feeding technique came to light.
Here is what you need to do. Provide a lot of food inside the snapping turtle’s enclosure and leave it for 15 minutes. Let the pet eat as much it can in that period, and remove the leftovers afterward.
There you go! You have fed your turtle the exact amount of food without any hassle.
What happens if your snapping turtle eats faster? Well, in that case, the pet might be at risk of overfeeding. But the chances of such incidents are lower than you can think.
While following the 15-minute rule, you might end up having waste foods or leftovers. Instead of throwing away the food, reuse it on the next meal.
The Head Method
If you do not want any food waste, the head method should be your go-to option. The technique is a little bit complex and includes your assumption quality.
As per the method, you need to imagine your pet turtle’s head as a hollow container. You have to offer the turtle the exact amount of food that will fill up that empty bowl.
If you fail to match the quantity, your turtle may suffer from obesity or malnutrition. However, yes, with time, every owner gets adjusted to the method.
If you find this technique hard, use a small container of the exact same size as your turtle’s head to do the job. You may feed a little more or less than the desired quantity. Those tiny differences play an insignificant role in the snapping turtle’s health.
As the appetite of the snapping turtle changes with the growing age, you may have to switch to another sized container every 6 months.
How Often Should You Feed A Snapping Turtle?
Snapping turtles of different age categories have different appetites. Generally, the babies need more food than the adult ones for healthy growth.
Follow the given feeding schedule to prepare a diet chart for your snapping turtle,
Baby Snapping Turtles Feeding Routine
Snapping turtle hatchlings have the most appetite. They are at an early age, and so they require more nutrition to have the potential growth. Thus, you need to feed the baby snapping turtles every day for the first six months.
You can divide the whole meal into two and feed the babies twice a day. Otherwise, one meal a day is perfectly okay.
Baby snapping turtles love animal protein, and sometimes, they refuse to eat vegetables at all. It is absolutely okay if the hatchlings are not interested in plants. Do not force the pets to eat anything.
A great way to feed vegetables is to offer veggie pellets. However, make sure the diet includes commercial foods, not more than 25%.
Fruits and live animals can be an occasional treat for the baby snapping turtles. Usually, snapping turtle hatchlings love melons and berries. But do not offer the babies food every day and too often. It can lead to malnutrition.
Remember, supplements are important for baby snapping turtles. These supplement diets help in the healthy development of the hatchlings. Sprinkle vitamin D3 and calcium powder on every meal for the pets. However, if you are feeding the turtles multi-vitamins, offer it only once a week.
For a more detailed diet chart of a baby snapping turtle, visit this link.
Juvenile Snapping Turtle Feeding Schedule
A snapping turtle reaches its juvenile years when it is around 8 to 12 months old. These turtles are a little bit more mature than babies, and they have stronger immunity. So compared to the hatchlings, a juvenile snapping turtle requires less amount of food.
If you have a juvenile snapping turtle in your home, feed the pet every other day.
See, I have mentioned earlier that it is okay if a baby snapping turtle refuses to eat vegetables. When the pet has grown, you need to find a trick to feed the turtle plant matter. Otherwise, the snapping turtle will suffer from vitamin deficiency.
Experts advise that decreasing the animal matter would starve the turtle. Eventually, it will devour the vegetables of the meal.
Whenever you are offering the juvenile turtles food, sprinkle the meal with vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. Also, multi-vitamin every once a week will be more than enough for them.
Adult Snapping Turtle Feeding Schedule
With growing age, the snapping turtles lose appetite. At that point, you can switch to a less frequent feeding schedule. Generally, experts suggest feeding the adult snapping turtles once every 3 days.
The diet of an adult snapping turtle should include an equal portion of vegetables and animal protein. You may compromise with the amount of plant matter, but it must be included.
Also, sprinkle multi-vitamin on the meal once a week. In the case of vitamin D3 and calcium supplements, a thrice a week routine will work.
As I have said, snapping turtles start eating less when they are growing old. You can feed the turtles live animals and compliment them with occasional treats to make the food interesting.
Snapping Turtle Not Eating: Why?
Snapping turtles are opportunistic feeders and eat whatever you offer them. Yet, sometimes these turtles might lose interest in eating at all. No matter how tempting food you provide them, the pets will refuse to eat. But why?
Experts have enlisted several reasons why a captive snapping turtle might refuse food. Here is a brief discussion on the causes and solutions,
1. Hibernation/Cold Temperature
Snapping turtles are ectotherms, which makes them vulnerable during cold weather. These turtles solely depend on the external temperature to regulate their body warmth. So, in winter, the snapping turtles slow down their metabolism, activity level, and oxygen consumption rate to cope with the harsh environment.
As a part of the process, the snapping turtle stops eating even before entering the hibernation state. So, if it is winter and your turtle is refusing food, hibernation might be the reason for such behavior.
However, it is advisable not to let baby snapping turtles hibernate. It is because hibernation is a long and stressful process. The slightest mistake can make the babies severely ill.
Some turtle keepers even discourage putting the captive snapping turtles in hibernation. You can avoid the phase by maintaining the suitable water and basking temperature inside the pet’s habitat.
If you are determined to let the snapping turtle hibernate, you need to research the process first. Take your pet to a vet for a health check-up and further consultation.
Now, it is not that the snapping turtles only slow down their metabolism during the winter season. Whenever the tank temperature falls, the turtles will show lethargy as a response. Also, the pets will stop eating.
So, if your turtle is not showing any interest in food, check the water and basking temperature first. Set the water temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and basking temperature near 90 degrees. If the temperature is not the issue, look for other reasons.
2. Poor Habitat Hygiene
Snapping turtles can adjust to hardy life. Yet, the cleanliness and hygiene of the habitat play a significant role in their growth and development.
Usually, snapping turtles are messy. They will fill the water with food scraps and poop. You will be surprised to know that these turtles lose appetite if any part of the habitat is filthy or smelling bad.
What is your role here?
Well, experienced turtle keepers always emphasize maintaining top-notch cleanliness inside the habitat. You have to set up a water filter that will suck up the dirt or filth and recirculate fresh water.
Besides, you need to replace 25 to 30% of the tank water with hygienic water every once or twice a week. Also, you have to clean up the whole tank and change the water at least once a month.
3. Wrong Diet Chart
Snapping turtles are anything but not picky eaters. Still, sometimes the pets might avoid eating the meal because of the bad taste and less appealing presentation. Also, some owners experiment with foods that should not be on the diet list of the turtles.
I suggest you provide the snapping turtles with appealing dishes or at least make the meal look mouth-watering. How can you do that? Shred the chicken or liver piece, toss live insects or worms in the water, chop the vegetables, etc.
Most importantly, do not force your pet turtles to eat anything. Each pet has its own taste and preferences. When you make the turtle eat a particular type of food, the pet will stress out and refuse the meal anyway.
4. Boring Meals
If I had to eat the same type of food every day, I would probably bail out within a week. So, how do you expect your adorable snapping turtles to have the same diet again and again? The repetition of the same food can be the reason why your turtle has lost its appetite.
At the beginning of my turtle-keeping journey, I made this mistake, and my pet turtle was literally starving for 2 days. Then I talked to my vet, and he guided me a way out.
You need to keep a variety of food now and then. If you are feeding the snapping turtle the dried worms and carrots today, try to include chicken or green leafy salad on the next meal.
Keep an eye on the turtle while it is eating. With time, you will understand the taste of the pet. Then you can feed the turtle food of its choice.
Also, you might want to feed the turtles fruits every once in a while. It is because occasional treats of live animals and fruits boost the appetite of the snapping turtles.
Snapping turtles might not be all emotional like us humans, but they surely respond to the environment. Imagine a turtle getting attacked by an alligator. The creature will be scared and try its level best to fight off or run with its life.
Again, when another turtle comes into the territory, the existing turtles act aggressively to scare off the newcomer. Similarly, a snapping turtle can experience stress or anxiety in some situations.
You know the habitat and its arrangements have a role in the growth and longevity of the snapping turtle. If you decide to put the pet in a congested tank or eliminate the land area, the creature will stress out. Frequent touching, peeping through the lid, disturbing continuously, loud noises, etc., can also stress your pretty snapping turtle.
Do you know how the snapping turtle responds to stress? The pet stops eating, stays in an aggressive mood, and tries bullying the tank mates or biting the owner.
If your snapping turtle is not eating, check out the surroundings first. Make sure the environment offers mental peace to the pet.
However, a newly bought snapping turtle also might show less interest in food. It is because of the new surroundings. Give the pet a few days to settle in, and it will get adjusted to the routine.
Snapping turtles are survivors, but it does not give the species a free pass from diseases. Insufficient food, lack of minerals, congested enclosure, absence of UV or heating light, and filthy habitat make any turtle sick.
Snapping turtles exhibit a few common symptoms whenever they are ill. Such as,
- Loss of appetite
- Runny nose
- Frequent basking
- Weight loss
- Lethargy, etc
So, yes. If your snapping turtle is refusing to eat and showing any weird symptoms, the chances are that the pet is suffering from any health condition.
No matter how minor the disease is, you have to take immediate action for the recovery of the turtle. Any prolonged illness can cost the pet its life.
Where To Feed The Snapping Turtle?
Snapping turtles are aquatic species and prefer having their meals while in water. If you provide the food anywhere other than water, the pets might refuse to eat at all. Hence, chop or shred the food items in the right way and toss them into the water.
One more thing, snapping turtles are most hungry early in the morning and during the evening time. Feed your pets at those hours, and they will eat with content.
How Long Can Snapping Turtles Go Without Food?
A snapping turtle can go without food from a few weeks to 6 months. The period depends on the surrounding environment, especially the temperature and the health of the pet.
Generally, in winter, when the temperature drops drastically, snapping turtles slow down their metabolism. As a part of the process, the creatures stop eating and drinking. They stay in a sleeping state until the winter ends. In some regions, the cold season lasts for 6 months or more.
However, if you are out of town for a few weeks and forget to refill the feeder, do not worry. A healthy snapping turtle can manage to live for weeks without food. But the hatchlings might survive a week or so. If the temperature is lower than usual, the pets can go without food longer than usual.
Snapping turtles may survive without food for weeks. But starvation makes the pets weak and vulnerable. Hence, never starve the pet turtles intentionally.
Snapping Turtle Feeding Tips: What To Do And What Not To Do?
Now you know the diet chart and feeding schedule of snapping turtles. Here are a few tips that will surely improve your management skill,
- Whenever you are feeding the turtles animals or insects, leave the bones and skin totally intact. The snapping turtles have powerful jaws, which help them crush the bones and tear the animal apart.
- Shred or chop the food into small pieces. Even though snapping turtles are masters at biting, they can not chew well. If the pets try to eat a big chunk of food, they might choke on it.
- Toss the food into the water, and the snapping turtle will get to the food. You can set up a turtle feeder inside the habitat to make feeding management simple and easy.
Snapping Turtle Overfeeding And Issues
I have already warned you that snapping turtles are opportunistic feeders. The pets keep begging for food even if they are not hungry. What happens if you overfeed the turtles?
Overfeeding comes with risks, and unfortunately, innocent pets have to pay for your ignorance. Here are a few conditions that occur to the snapping turtles due to overfeeding,
- Liver failure
- Kidney issue
- Unhealthy shedding
- Abnormal growth
Snapping turtles are omnivorous. Yet, the species prefers eating animal protein more than plants. Your turtle might refuse to eat vegetables, but you should not remove those items from the diet chart. Overfeeding of protein can cause pyramiding or abnormal shell growth in the snapping turtles.
I understand you should not force your snapping turtle to eat vegetables. Instead, go for the veggie pellets or decrease the animal matter of the meal. These tricks might work. Also, follow either the head method or the 15-minute rules to avoid overfeeding the snapping turtle.
The snapping turtles are anything but not picky eaters. Prepare the diet chart for these pets, maintaining a proper ratio of animal protein, plant matter, and supplement amount. Avoid foods that are toxic and unsafe for the turtles. Last but not least, follow the feeding schedule strictly to ensure the healthy growth of the pet.
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